Apr 12, 2023 - News

Environmental coalition files lawsuit against EPA

Illustration of a gavel hitting the floor and generating ripples.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Houston-based Bayou City Waterkeeper joined 12 other environmental organizations in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Driving the news: In the lawsuit, filed yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, the 13 environmental organizations claim that the EPA has failed to set appropriate limits on harmful chemicals like cyanide, benzene and mercury pouring out of U.S. oil refineries, chemical plants and factories.

What they're saying: "Those of us living in Houston are sick of sacrificing our health and ecosystems to inadequately regulated industries," said Kristen Schlemmer, legal director for Bayou City Waterkeeper.

  • "These burdens are heaviest on our lower-wealth, Black and brown neighbors living in the shadow of industrial facilities along the Houston Ship Channel, who face increased risks of cancer and don't have equal access to our natural bayous and bays. Through this lawsuit, our hope is to get better regulations in place so our home can stop being treated as a sacrifice zone."

Of note: The Environmental Integrity Project examined pollution levels from 81 refineries across the U.S. and found that seven of the 10 worst polluters for total dissolved solids dumped into waterways in 2021 were in Texas.

  • Exxon Mobil's Baytown Refinery east of Houston was the worst one in the country as it released almost 127 million pounds of chlorides, sulfates and other dissolved solids into the Houston Ship Channel, according to the study, released earlier this year.
  • Phillips 66 Sweeney Refinery south of Houston is one of the more frequent violators as it has exceeded its permitted pollution limits 44 times from 2019 to 2021, 42 of which were for unpermitted cyanide pollution in the Brazos River.

The other side: The EPA has not responded to an Axios request for comment.

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